Friday Rundown 7.25.14

Schools are thinking outside of the box to try to offer the best to their students. Districts have been faced with funding challenges and state and national mandates that have made it difficult to provide things such as learning technology, healthy foods that students want to eat and alternative programming for non-traditional students. Districts and students have been forced to be creative to find solutions.

The usual topics of Common Core, tenure, state aid, and national and international student competitiveness have not gone away. Here’s some other interesting news from the week.

The problem with how we talk about poverty and kids (The Washington Post)

State awards $11M in after-school grants (Capital New York)

Setting the record straight on tenure (New York Daily News)

Investing in early learning (Buffalo News)

Middle school principals discuss Common Core, technology and promoting identity formation (Albany Business Review)

US teens are flunking financial literacy test (Middletown Times Herald Record)

New York schools have lower dropout rates than national average (Watertown Daily Times)

SED to release test analysis today

In response to feedback and requests from teachers, principals, and superintendents, the State Education Department (SED) has authorized the early release of “instructional reports” for the 2014 Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics tests.

The reports, which have been made available in the past but later in the year, will give teachers and administrators a technical look at how students performed on particular questions. By releasing them early, educators now have more time to use the assessment results in planning for the upcoming school year. For example, if a class struggled with questions that measure addition and subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators, the teacher can adjust instruction next year to strengthen students’ understanding of this topic.

In addition to releasing the reports, SED said it would give out half of the questions and answers from the 2014 exams. In the past, the department released 25 percent.

According to Education Commissioner John King, the reports made available today do not include student performance levels; those statewide results will be released later this summer.

“By releasing critical data and twice as many exam questions, our staff will be better able to pinpoint which standards have been met as well as the areas that need more emphasis,” Port Byron Central School District Superintendent Neil O’Brien said. “We will have the time to make adjustments to help improve learning outcomes for students in the upcoming year. While we know the goal of the Education Department is to have all of the questions released, this is a great step in the right direction and will be of tremendous value to my students, teachers and district.”

Research: To save Common Core, New York should rethink high school exams

A new research study by New America Education says that New York state should be rethinking its graduation requirements if it has any hope of saving the poorly implemented Common Core Learning Standards.

New York is one of 24 states that utilizes “exit exams” by requiring students to be proficient on specific standardized tests in order to graduate from high school. To earn a Regents diploma, students need to score 65 or higher on the five core-subject exams (English, math, global history, U.S. History and science).

Beginning next year, NY will launch more rigorous exams aligned to the Common Core. In theory, these exams are designed to determine who is ready for college. But when used as an “exit exam,” they could now also determine who is able to go to college since they will act as a gatekeeper for earning a diploma. The study finds that states utilizing an “exit exam” format run the risk of weakening the intent of the Common Core and undermining efforts to increase rigor, according to researcher Anne Hyslop of the New America Foundation.

Concern stems from the fact that the current cut rates for exit exams would have to be greatly changed to reflect college and career readiness accurately. If states shift the standard to true “college and career readiness,” huge proportions of students could flunk since it’s estimated that “only 39 percent of the nation’s high school seniors were prepared for college-level math, and only 38 percent were prepared in reading,” based on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

“Because states cannot – and will not – suddenly deny high school degrees to large numbers of students, particularly those who are already at-risk and furthest behind, states will likely dilute the rigor of the college-and career-ready benchmark if meeting that score is tied to graduation requirements,” Hyslop said.

Read the full report here.

 

Friday Rundown 7.18.14

Unions are dominating the news this week with debates on teachers’ healthcare costs, pensions, raises and tenure. In addition, union leaders have expressed their opinions on Common Core and the upcoming election. As the new school year and the next election approach, political leaders and educators are searching for a solution. This week they’re discussing the benefits of performance based raises for teachers, tweaking the Common Core standards and litigating against tenure. 

State public schools anticipated to pay highest pension contribution for teachers in 2014-15  (Watertown Daily Times)

School aid push starts early (Glens Falls Post Star)

Teachers union takes on Common Core (Politico)

School Districts Are Paying Teachers Wrong, Report Says (Huffington Post)

Sound education child’s right (Times Union)

Why building relationships is vital in school reform (Washington Post)

Can Utica be ready for a longer school day? (Utica Observer Dispatch)

In an era of high-stakes testing, a struggling school made a shocking choice (The New Yorker)

Hiring patterns shift in teaching field (Times Herald Record)

Thursday Rundown 7.3.14

Happy holiday weekend! Starting with the national news, in the spirit of the Fourth of July, the nation’s top education headlines include: Global competitiveness, Common Core, standardized testing and more.

New York reform news –

NY principals: “When guessing gets you to pass, a test measures close to nothing.”

Via Washington Post: Two New York principals are out to prove that new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards are not helping to show which students are college and career ready, as they were originally intended to do.

John Murphy, assistant principal of South Side High School in New York, and Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School, have partnered on this project. Burris has been chronicling the flawed implementation of school reform and the Common Core Learning Standards in New York for some time. She was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

An excerpt:

“Congratulations to the New York State Education Department. Officials there have solved the college remediation problem. Their Common Core graduation tests are so “rigorous” and have a  new passing score (for students graduating in 2022) set so high  that only about 1 in 4 students will graduate high school.  And the elite 25 percent who make it won’t be going to community college, so the colleges with highest remediation rates can close.

First, let’s talk about the Common Core Algebra Regents which was given primarily to 8th or 9th graders in early June. Passing the test is a graduation requirement for these students. In concepts tested, the exam was similar to the old Algebra Regents, with some traditional Algebra 2 topics making their way onto the exam. But in order to make the test ‘Common Core’, the questions became wordy and confusing. You can find the entire test here.

Here is one example. Question 12 asks students to identify an equation, written as a function, given two roots. In the past, the question would have been phrased: “Given the roots -6 and 5, which of the following would be the correct equation?” Students are then given four choices.
Here is the Common Core phrasing: “Keith determines the zeros of the function f(x) to be -6 and 5. What could be Keith’s function?”
This is but one example of a question that was made unnecessarily complicated and wordy in order to give the illusion of a ‘real world’ problem that requires deep thinking. And then there are the questions designed to give a window into the student’s problem solving skills, such as question 34, which includes, “Describe how your equation models the situation.” The “situation” refers to dimensions of a garden. How does an English language learner, with good math skills, begin to understand what that question is asking?”

Of greater importance, Burris and Murphy detail the importance of reasonable cut scores for students.

“It was predetermined by the State Education Department that for now, the passing rate on the Common Core test would be the same as the traditional passing rate on the old exam. In order to keep the passing rate the same (about 74 percent), students only needed to earn 30 of a possible 84 points on the Common Core exam in order to pass. What would the passing rate  be if the new “College Readiness” passing score were in place? That cut score was also determined. Ninth-graders, four years from now, would have needed 66 of 86 points; only 22 percent of the sampled test takers earned would have passed.”

Click here to read the complete article.

Lawsuit coming over NY’s tenure laws

The Partnership for Educational Justice announced yesterday that it will file a lawsuit in Albany “in the next few weeks” challenging New York’s teacher tenure laws, including the foundational “last-in, first-out” protection.

You can learn more about the lawsuit at the Partnership for Educational Justice’s website.

Here’s an article from Capitol Confidential about the lawsuit which includes reaction from NYSUT leaders.

What are your thoughts on teacher tenure?

Friday Rundown: 6.20.14

Are you ready for the Summer Solstice? The longest day of the year arrives tomorrow, Saturday, June 21 at 6:51 a.m. EDT.

Meanwhile, while school is coming to a end in most districts around the state next week, there was a bit of news made yesterday involving teacher evaluations. Here’s your weekly Rundown.

Teacher Evaluation Changes

Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes (New York Times)

Poll shows upstaters, like teachers, want Common Core delayed (Buffalo News)

‘Class Notes’: New York’s superintendents offer vision of public education (Journal News)

NYS testing: What schools, students were used to test future state exams? (Syracuse Post Standard)

Editorial: In defense of teacher tenure (Wall Street Journal - subscription required)

Common core opponents rally in Albany (Albany Times Union)

As the lunch line gets healthier, making ends meet in school cafeterias gets tougher (Buffalo News)

Summit highlights the science of job growth (Oneonta Daily Star)

What’s wrong with outlawing bullying? (CNN)

Unions will ‘Picket in the Pines’ to protest pro-charter education summit headlined by Cuomo

Teachers’ unions and other public education groups are planning to head to Lake Placid’s Camp Philos next month to protest a pro-charter education conference there. The conference will be hosted by the nonprofit group Education Reform Now and feature Gov. Andrew Cuomo as “honorary chairman.”

In response, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) are organizing “Picket in the Pines” outside of Camp Philos on Sunday, May 4 to push back against the pro-charter agenda and “put the ‘public’ back in public education.”

From the NYSUT website on the upcoming event:

“For too long, so-called ‘reformers’ have drowned out the voices of parents and teachers. These hedge-fund propagandists have contributed to New York State’s Common Core mess, the (failed) In-Bloom push for student data, and the spread of corporate charters that undermine public schools serving all kids.”

Last week, it was made public that the cost of admission to the camp ranges from $1,000 to $2,500. The top-price ticket includes a VIP reception and a listing on the event’s website. That price tag has already brought about criticism by public education lobbyists, who say this will likely be an event consisting mostly of pro-charter hedge funders.

Capital New York is reporting that some public school parents and teachers have complained that they’re being barred from attending the conference. Via Jessica Bakeman:

“Gail DeBonis Richmond, a retired teacher, said she registered for the event on April 15 and received two confirmation emails before receiving a refund on her $1,000 registration fee two days later. She said she was told that the event was at capacity before she attempted to register.”

Unbelievably, the executive director of Education Reform Now, Joe Williams, said he didn’t anticipate that there would be so much interest in the event. From Capital New York:

“Given the unexpected interest, the event is now over capacity, and we have had to turn away some applicants due to space limitations,” he (Williams) continued. “We regret not being able to welcome everyone, but we are excited to continue these conversations after Camp Philos on a much broader scale.”

Williams went on to say he expects to target a bigger venue for next year’s conference.

The deadline to register for “Picket in the Pines” is April 30.

Friday Rundown: 4.18.14

Good morning! Did you realize that every day this week was a palindrome?

4/13/14
4/14/14
4/15/14
4/16/14
4/17/14
4/18/14
4/19/14

Pretty cool, right? We’ll call it Fun Fact Friday. On to the Rundown.

Cuomo accepts pro-charter role (Albany Times Union)…Editorial: Cuomo drives schools to the brink  (Glens Falls Post Star)

State senator joins push to delay teacher exam (Journal News)

There are 215 more master teachers in NY (Journal News)

Web Essay: When teachers can’t teach, students fail (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

They still don’t get it about Common Core (Times Herald Record – subscription may be required)

Opt-out movement gains traction across region (Buffalo News)

Revised SAT Won’t Include Obscure Vocabulary Words (NY Times)

Editorial: Allow voters to decide on taxes (Glens Falls Post Star)

Editorial: Happy, unhappy times for school budgets in Elmira region (Elmira Star Gazette)

Schumer calls for funding to fight school violence (Buffalo News)

Parental involvement is overrated (NY Times)

5 Ways School Libraries Can Stay Relevant in the Digital Age (Center for Digital Education)